Former Middlesex County Sherriff Joe Spicuzzo pleaded guilty today to accepting bribes for jobs.
Spicuzzo, 67, of Helmetta, pleaded guilty to a second-degree charge of bribery after he collected about $112,000 from employees and prospective employees looking for jobs and promotions.
As a result of the plea, the state will recommend that Spicuzzo be sentenced to nine years in state prison, including two years of parole ineligibility. Spicuzzo must also forfeit his entire state pension and will be permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey.
“This guilty plea, which will put former Sheriff Spicuzzo in prison, sends a loud and clear message that we will not tolerate officials who unlawfully exploit their public positions for personal gain and betray the trust placed in them by the people of New Jersey,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “Spicuzzo’s long years in power corrupted him. It’s hard to fathom the greed and arrogance that would prompt a law enforcement leader to demand bribes of young recruits.”
Also pleading guilty were two sheriff’s office employees, Darrin P. DiBiasi, 45, of Monmouth Junction, who is a former Middlesex County sheriff’s investigator, and Paul A. Lucarelli, 47, of South River, a suspended Middlesex County sheriff’s officer.
According to the complaint against Spicuzzo, between March 1996 and November 2008, he demanded that eight people pay him bribes in return for him appointing them as new sheriff’s investigators or promoting them within the office.
The investigation found that Spicuzzo solicited bribes ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 from seven people seeking to be hired as investigators, including DiBiasi, who paid a $5,000 bribe prior to being hired in 1999.
The investigation revealed that between 2002 and 2005 DiBiasi collected three bribes from individuals seeking positions and delivered them to Spicuzzo. In 2008, Lucarelli collected a bribe of approximately $25,000 from a person seeking employment as an investigator and delivered it to Spicuzzo.
Spicuzzo was arrested by State Police detectives on March 7, 2011 and Lucarelli was arrested on March 14, 2011. DiBiasi was arrested on July 7, 2011.